Letting the Poem Go: A Collaborative Writing Experiment with Teach the Web

poem playback
Writers often hoard ideas, right? We huddle with our screens, our pens, our ink and paper, and use our mind as a net to gather ideas and make sense of them. I do that. But I am also intrigued by the collaborative nature of online spaces and how we might open up our own ideas to others and let our stories and poems go, and see where they end up.

This week, I used a tip from the Teach the Web MOOC to use Edit Pad, and I started a poem, which I then tossed into the world with an invitation for others to add, remix, delete, and do what they would with my words. You never know who might be up for such a challenge, but luckily for me, I had Ian, Chad, Hayfa and Laura willing to jump into the mix.

collab poem

And wow …. it was pretty cool. Not only did they add words, they added a music soundtrack, a background image, different kinds of fonts … as well as their own lines of poetry. You might think it would be cool to watch that collaborative process unfold, right? Well, with Edit Pad, you can. This open source html editor/notebook comes with a “time slider” so that you can watch the document grow from start to finish. I found it mesmerizing, particularly as my words truly did become fence posts for the others to build around.

Or maybe we need another analogy. Maybe my words were stars, and Chad, Ian, Hayfa and Laura built a galaxy around me. I like that much better.

See the final poem

View the edit mode of the poem (go ahead — add some more)

Thank you to Laura and Chad and Hayfa and Ian for being writers with me.

Peace (in the poem),


  1. Thank you kevin for giving us this opportuninty, there is al John Johnston, he is the one who addded the music. I just asked for someone to help me through and he volunteered 😉

  2. I am amazed by this….partly because I love the sentiment of the original poem, and the bravery of putting it out there for remix blows me away. Partly because I need to get brave enough to try the coding part of it…which scares the heck out of me. I am resolving, at some point, to add to this poem, though I don’t know where to begin….but this speaks to my spirit.

    Thanks so much for this letting go.

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